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College Football: PFF's 2020 Preseason All-Mountain West Team

No year in college football will be more memorable than the one we are experiencing now, as the impact of COVID-19 has forced most colleges to cancel the 2020 fall football season with the hope of trying to play in the spring.

We aren't here to give you our opinion on whether they should or should not have played in the fall, nor are we going to do that with their attempt to play in the spring. Instead, we want to shine a light on the players who deserve credit for the performances they have put forth over their college careers.

Without further ado, we present to you what would have been the 2020 PFF College Preseason All-Mount West Team:

QUARTERBACK

FIRST TEAM: PATRICK O’BRIEN, COLORADO STATE

O’Brien has some real-deal arm strength. It might not be the most valuable trait for a QB to carry, but it certainly helped him make a handful of special big-time throws in 2019. There are some decision-making issues, but he’s still the best QB in the conference.

Second Team: Nick Starkel, San Jose State
Third Team: Hank Bachmeier, Boise State
Honorable Mention: Jason Shelley, Utah State

RUNNING BACK

Oct 26, 2019; Fresno, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs running back Ronnie Rivers (20) runs the ball against the Colorado State Rams in the fourth quarter at Bulldog Stadium. Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: RONNIE RIVERS, FRESNO STATE

Some of the cuts Rivers makes on the field will make you fall out of your chair — he just embarrasses defenders with as both a runner and receiver. His dual-threat ability is the best asset to Fresno State.

Second Team: Miles Reed, Hawaii
Third Team: George Holani, Boise State
Honorable Mention: Toa Taua, Nevada

RUNNING BACK

FIRST TEAM: CHARLES WILLIAMS, UNLV

Williams finally had the breakout many were waiting for in his fourth year at UNLV in 2019. There was a midseason lull, but he started and closed out the year with strong performances, paving way to an 80.4 rushing grade (previous career high was 67.7).

Second Team: Xazavian Valladay, Wyoming
Third Team: Kadin Remsberg, Air Force
Honorable Mention: Chase Jasmin, San Diego State

WIDE RECEIVER

FIRST TEAM: WARREN JACKSON, COLORADO STATE

The 6-foot-6 Jackson straight bullies defensive backs when he doesn’t have separation; in fact, his grade on close-coverage targets ranked first in the FBS a season ago. Few MWC DBs can handle that size and strength.

Second Team: Rico Bussey Jr., Hawaii
Third Team: Elijah Cooks, Nevada
Honorable Mention: Jordan Kress, New Mexico

WIDE RECEIVER

FIRST TEAM: KHALIL SHAKIR, BOISE STATE

Shakir is the top receiver in the Group of 5 and one of the best slot receivers in the entire country. Only Ja’Marr Chase and Tutu Atwell posted better slot receiving grades in 2019. He’s a vertical weapon but also has the requisite skills to win underneath.

Second Team: Jesse Matthews, San Diego State
Third Team: Aaron Cephus, Hawaii
Honorable Mention: Dante Wright, Colorado State

WIDE RECEIVER

Nov 2, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose State Spartans wide receiver Tre Walker (10) carries the ball against the Boise State Broncos during the second quarter of a football game at CEFCU Stadium. Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: TRE WALKER, SAN JOSE STATE

Walker is one of the most underrated receivers in the country. He can separate at all levels, fight through contact after the catch and has the kind of remarkable body control that makes him a genuine back-shoulder weapon.

Second Team: Isaiah Hamilton, San Jose State
Third Team: CT Thomas, Boise State
Honorable Mention: Jared Smart, Hawaii

TIGHT END

FIRST TEAM: TREY McBRIDE, COLORADO STATE

The Rams have a gem in McBride, as he is not only a receiving threat but also one of the best blocking tight ends in the FBS. His hands are as sure as they come, and his 95.7% catch rate backs that up.

(*Future with CSU unknown, reportedly entered the transfer portal but this is not confirmed.)

Second Team: Noah Bean, UNLV
Third Team: Marcus Williams, New Mexico
Honorable Mention: John Bates, Boise State

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

FIRST TEAM: PARKER FERGUSON, AIR FORCE

Ferguson is really just as strong of a run-blocker as his teammate and fellow first-teamer Nolan Laufenberg. His 85.7 run-block grade in 2019 was 13th among FBS tackles and helped him own the seventh-most-valuable year at the position. Without them, there is no rushing attack.

Second Team: Zachary Thomas, San Diego State
Third Team: Jack Snyder, San Jose State
Honorable Mention: Teton Saltes, New Mexico

OFFENSIVE GUARD

FIRST TEAM: NOLAN LAUFENBERG, AIR FORCE

Laufenberg is one of the best run-blockers in the entire country. He rarely makes a mistake — his 2019 PFF WAA was the eighth-best we have seen by a guard. Watching him on trap runs is just a beautiful sight to see.

Second Team: Julio Garcia, UNLV
Third Team: William Dunkle, San Diego State
Honorable Mention: Karter Shaw, Utah State

CENTER

FIRST TEAM: TAAGA TUULIMA, HAWAII

Tuulima has taken 1,231 pass-block snaps since 2018 and has yet to allow a single sack. That's 280 snaps more than any other center who hasn't allowed a sack in that span. Tuulima’s run-blocking is fairly subpar, but he’s not letting his quarterback get touched by the defense.

Second Team: Kyle Stapley, New Mexico
Third Team: Matt Smith, Fresno State
Honorable Mention: Keegan Cryder, Wyoming

OFFENSIVE GUARD

FIRST TEAM: JAKE STETZ, BOISE STATE

Stetz only 435 snaps to his name but was set to take over a starting role in 2020, and rightfully so, as he has been exceptional when on the field for Boise State. Last season, he played 403 snaps and produced an 83.0 PFF grade, ranking third among all FBS guards. On his 185 pass-block snaps, Stetz allowed just one pressure.

Second Team: Heneli Avendano, Utah State
Third Team: Matt Brayton, UNLV
Honorable Mention: Solo Vaipulu, Hawaii

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

FIRST TEAM: BARRY WESLEY, COLORADO STATE

Wesley is as versatile a lineman as they come, splitting time between left guard and right tackle in 2019 and taking 40-plus reps at every alignment on the line over the last two years. Wesley found some consistency in 2019 in both facets of play, posting a grade above 77.0 in pass-block and run-block grade.

Second Team: Syrus Tuitele, Fresno State
Third Team: Gene Pryor, Hawaii
Honorable Mention: Adam Jewell, Air Force

 


[Editors Note: PFF's customizable NFL Mock Draft Simulator gives you the opportunity to be the GM of any team and is now updated with a select group of 2021 prospects]


INTERIOR DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: CAMERON THOMAS, SAN DIEGO STATE

Thomas was tasked with playing more nose tackle toward the back half of 2019 and saw his production take a hit, but his performance playing 3-technique was borderline elite. He earned an 88.0 PFF grade when playing defensive tackle in 2019.

Second Team: Chris Green, Nevada
Third Team: Cole Godbout, Wyoming
Honorable Mention: Christopher Herrera, Air Force

INTERIOR DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: SCALE IGIEHON, BOISE STATE

Igiehon closed out the 2019 season with one of the hottest stretches of play at the position. In his final seven games from Week 7 on, Igiehon recorded an 85.5 PFF grade, which ranked fourth in the FBS and a spot ahead of Derrick Brown.

Second Team: Kolo Uasike, UNLV
Third Team: Ellison Hubbard, Colorado State
Honorable Mention: Victor Jones, Wyoming

EDGE DEFENDER

Dec 29, 2018; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arkansas State Red Wolves quarterback Justice Hansen (15) is sacked by Nevada Wolf Pack defensive tackle Dom Peterson (51) and defensive end Sam Hammond (98) in the first half of the 2018 Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: DOM PETERSON, NEVADA

Peterson will be a force on the field week in and week out, regardless of the play call. He produced grades above 84.0 against the run and in the pass rush in 2019, finishing the year with an 89.9 overall grade that ranked eighth in the FBS.

Second Team: Jacobi Hearn, New Mexico
Third Team: Emmanuel Jones, Colorado State
Honorable Mention: Keshawn Banks, San Diego State

EDGE DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: CADE HALL, SAN JOSE STATE

Hall’s pass-rush grade (84.7) ranked second to only Curtis Weaver in the MWC last year. He’s a plus athlete for the position with some really nice bend.

Second Team: Lakota Wills, Air Force
Third Team: Solomon Byrd, Wyoming
Honorable Mention: Garrett Crall, Wyoming

LINEBACKER

FIRST TEAM: LAWSON HALL, NEVADA

Hall didn't have many coverage responsibilities in 2019, but when he was given a chance, he made some impressive plays on the ball. His 80.4 coverage grade was fourth in the FBS last year.

Second Team: Riley Whimpey, Boise State
Third Team: Penei Pavihi, Hawaii
Honorable Mention: Rico Tolefree, San Jose State

LINEBACKER

FIRST TEAM: ARRON MOSBY, FRESNO STATE

Mosby isn't much of a presence against the run, but he has a nose for the football in coverage. He made five total plays on the ball in 2019 and also ranked second in the MWC in passing stops (11). His 82.0 coverage grade ranked 15th in the FBS last year.

Second Team: Benton Wickersham, Boise State
Third Team: Demonte Meeks, Air Force
Honorable Mention: Dequan Jackson, Colorado State

CORNERBACK

FIRST TEAM: JALEN WALKER, BOISE STATE

To anyone going up against Walker: Good luck shaking him for an open target. Last year, he forced close coverage at the second-highest rate in the entire FBS. He has excellent read-and-react ability, and his 20 forced incompletions in 2019 — third in the FBS — back that up.

Second Team: Darren Hall, San Diego State
Third Team: Marshaun Cameron, Colorado State
Honorable Mention: Berdale Robins, Nevada

CORNERBACK

FIRST TEAM: CORTEZ DAVIS, HAWAII

Davis is fluid and has some decent straight-line speed, making him nearly impossible to shake downfield. In 2019, Davis saw 20 vertical-route targets, and he forced tight coverage on 14 of them. He played the catch point well, allowing only one catch on those 14 while forcing six incompletions.

Second Team: EJ Muhammad, Nevada
Third Team: Avery Williams, Boise State
Honorable Mention: Cam Lampkin, Utah State

SAFETY

Nov 30, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego State Aztecs safety Tariq Thompson (14) is defended by Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Aleva Hifo (15) after a fourth quarter interception at SDCCU Stadium. Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: TARIQ THOMPSON, SAN DIEGO STATE

Thompson has been one of the best players in the Mountain West Conference since he first stepped foot on the field as a freshman in 2017. In each of his three seasons, Thompson has produced a PFF grade above 80.0 and combined to produce a whopping 25 interceptions plus pass breakups.

Second Team: Shaq Bond, Utah State
Third Team: Rome Weber, Wyoming
Honorable Mention: Trenton Thompson, San Diego State

SAFETY

FIRST TEAM: DWAYNE JOHNSON JR., SAN DIEGO STATE

Johnson is hands down the best safety in the Group of 5. He brings a physical presence in the box against the run and is a fluid mover in coverage. His 87.3 PFF grade led the conference and ranked ninth among all FBS safeties in 2019.

Second Team: Troy Lefeged Jr., Utah State
Third Team: Wylan Free, Fresno State
Honorable Mention: Khoury Bethley, Hawaii

FLEX DEFENSE

FIRST TEAM: JAY LENARD, SAN JOSE STATE

After a year of volatile play in 2018 in which he had great production but a bevy of mistakes in coverage, Lenard cleaned up his play in 2019 and sustained that production. When lined up at free safety, Lenard ranked 18th in the FBS in coverage grade.

Second Team: Nehemiah Shelton, San Jose State
Third Team: Kekaula Kaniho, Boise State
Honorable Mention: Bobby Brown II, San Jose State

KICKER

First Team: Brandon Talton, Nevada
Second Team: Matt Araiza, San Diego State
Third Team: Matt Mercurio, San Jose State
Honorable Mention: Cesar Silva, Fresno State

PUNTER

First Team: Ryan Stonehouse, Colorado State
Second Team: Tyson Dyer, New Mexico
Third Team: Stan Gaudion, Hawaii
Honorable Mention: Christopher Bartolic, Utah State

KICK RETURNER

First Team: Savon Scarver, Utah State
Second Team: Melquise Stovall, Hawaii
Third Team: Lincoln Victor, Hawaii
Honorable Mention: Jordan Byrd, San Diego State

PUNT RETURNER

First Team: Avery Williams, Boise State
Second Team: Jesse Matthews, San Diego State
Third Team: Jordan Byrd, San Diego State
Honorable Mention: Dante Wright, Colorado State

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